Reconsiderations of what constitutes a memorial, or in more general terms a "proper" monument, appear at critical cultural junctures; our era is one such period. The past two decades have seen an unprecedented pace of memorial/monument building. In an era where our memory of world events lasts about as long as the television broadcast that delivers news of these events, paradoxically we are culturally preoccupied with erecting "permanent" keepers and various markers of memory. And though these markers are quickly forgotten after their initial fanfare, at least we feel just a bit less guilty about permitting ourselves to forget the marked catastrophes so quickly knowing that the memorials we build are there doing the memory work for us.
The Latin word for monument, "monere", means to remember, to warn, to admonish, or to instruct. It is the voice of experience. The problem is that we have come to associate memorials merely with past events and not as warnings or instructions for an improved future. In this sense any memorial or monument must operate alongside an ongoing narrative rather than a myth or tale that exists only in the past. Hence, the state or avoidance of a memorial's muteness rests with the public and not the monument per se; it is the ability of a memorial to ignite an ongoing debate that builds an environment for genuine freedoms and that makes the memorial a public artefact. It is only political consciousness and not a dormant memorial, regardless how beautiful or how provocative that memorial may be, that has the capacity to counter social crisis; as a corollary then, if awareness of political dynamics is made the rule and not the exception, there will finally be no need for memorials.
This "memory" proposal aims to instigate an ongoing debate regarding the efforts and consequences of "peace missions" such as our current involvement with Afghanistan. The proposal takes no sides; it is only a public documentation of events: each time a Canadian soldier is killed the Prime Minister is to plant one Birch tree on the lawn in front of Parliament's Peace Tower. As such, the burden of either remembering who and what is being memorialized, and the burden of comprehending lessons to be learned, remains with the public and not the memorial. A cemetery with its rows of identical markers can continue to expand across the land with little noticeable change to the land. Conversely, the increase of Birch trees is evident: the rate at which the Peace Tower is slowly obscured by the planting and maturation of Birches allows the Peace Tower to serve as a "barometer" of our "Peace Missions". The Birch trees symbolize a new start and the cleansing of the past, and as a deciduous tree they seasonally re-enact the process of dormancy (public indifference) and blooming (public engagement). If an era of public, political blooming prevails the hope is that the process of tree-planting stops.